My First TEDx Accra Experience: The Highs And The Lows


On Saturday, 23rd April, 2016, I had the opportunity to go to my first ever TED event. The event was TEDx Accra. I wanted to go last year but my schedule didn’t allow it and so I made plans to go this year.

I have watched a lot of TED talks. I’ve watched talks which have inspired me, made me laugh, made me cry and made me see things from a different perspective.

This year’s TEDx Accra event had the theme “Re-Think“. So, I made myself available for Saturday and set off to the event.

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I spent the whole day at the venue (9am -3pm) and it definitely took the energy out of me. So I’m going to give an overview of the entire event. I’ll talk about the highlights, the lowlights and my overall experience at my first ever TEDx experience.

So, let’s talk about the highlights:

Memorable Speakers:

There were two speakers who really got my attention during the event. Two of my memorable speakers were Steve Charles Wallace and Dan Meyer.

Steve Wallace told a story about how he was a foreign exchange student and how he first came to Ghana in the late 70s. Steve’s talk was more centered on how Ghana is losing out on finished cocoa products. That is something which I have always seen as a problem. Why does Ghana export more raw materials which is cocoa than finished products of cocoa such as chocolate? Funny enough, Japan is a big fan of Ghanaian cocoa. They even have a product called Milk Chocolate Ghana. Unfortunately, the product is manufactured in Japan and NOT Ghana. Overall, good talk filled with good stories and rethinking our whole cocoa strategy

You can read more about Chris and his work at www.omanhene.com

Another highlight speaker was Dan Meyers. Dan gave a great talk which was truly focused on the theme of “Re-thinking”. Dan is a Nobel prize winner in medicine and also holds the record for most swords swallowed. What?!!

I really identified with Dan as he told the story of how he was shy kid with social anxiety and how he learned to manage his fears and do some crazy stuff in his life including climbing the highest mountain in Sweden and learning how to swallow swords.

To finish out his talk, Dan actually swallowed a sword on stage. It was impressive.

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Dave Meyer swallowing a sword. Photo credit (TEDx Accra)

There was also some great speakers who spoke on reforming laws in Ghana, and re-thinking the whole concept of orphanages.

Ok, so that was the good part of the event. let’s talk a bit about the lowlights:

There were some talks which I found were OK but not mind blowing. I mean, following up to a guy who just swallowed a sword would be hard for anyone. But the real lowlight of the event was whoever was in charge of the microphone and presentation set up. Short of a disaster, they really dropped the ball.

At one point, a speaker walked on stage and couldn’t start her talk because her mic wasn’t working. She had to awkwardly walk off stage and return back again with a working mic. This theme of hiccups continued throughout the event.

The worst part was when it came to slide presentations. A couple of speakers used a clicker to move along their slides but soon after, the clicker stopped working and the presenters had to rely on someone to manual move their slides along. It really ruined the flow of some of the speakers and their presentation especially when they had to look down at the tech guy and say “next slide please”. One speaker couldn’t get his slide presentation up and running and had to just do his speech without it.

Yeah, so maybe the TEDx Accra planners hire a better group of people to fix that or they just do more rehearsals to make sure everything works well. In my opinion, I’d go for the former.

General impressions:

Sometimes my expectations for certain events tend to be a bit high and sometimes my high exceptions tend to lead to disappointment. Since this was my first TED/TEDx event, I was expecting to basically have my mind blown or be a bit inspired when I walked out of the venue. Not to say that there weren’t some interesting stories told on stage but I never really felt like the majority of the stories got to me.

Maybe my expectation were high because I had watched a lot of TED talks online and was basically expecting the exact same experience of my mind being greatly stimulated and inspired. I was expecting the same result from my first TEDx experience. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that way. It didn’t help that there were a lot of technical difficulties with some of the presentations which distracted from the stories that some of speakers were saying.

With the whole “Re-Think” theme for the year 2016, I felt that the TEDx Accra guys were on to something and I was expecting most of the presentations to feature lots of ideas to be implemented in Ghana. There were some ideas being talked about but we got more of personal stories of perseverance which although, were inspiring, didn’t really stimulate me to “re-think”.

Or maybe I’m alreading “re-thinking” how to change the world around me and I may have not been the target audience. Or maybe I was expecting too much.

Regardless, it was good first time experience. There are some great, inspirational stories which need to be told more often in the media, especially  TV and radio. We need more of those stories instead of being bombarded with the same old sensationalist stories involving politics and celebrities.

I’m looking forward to the next TEDx Accra event. Hopefully, there will be less technical glitches and hopefully, I will walk away a bit more inspired.

Find out more about TEDx Accra on their Facebook page and take a look at some of the pictures from the event.

 

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